Unlearning Internalized Ableism: A Short Intro

Person with pale skin and a green towel wrapped around their hair is pressing up against their face with their hands. Their eyes are closed and are facing towards a computer at a desk.
Do you harangue yourself about the things you should do, even when you're physically unable and they don't actually, really, absolutely, need to be done?

But I “should” be able to…

One common mental energy drain is the dichotomy between what we can do and what we think we should do, or how we think we should do it, or when we think we should do it, or how much, or why.

I cannot overstate the importance of finding the things that are causing you internal stress or anxiety and that are coming solely from your thoughts, not real circumstances in your life.

That isn’t dismissing what you believe, it is recognizing that not everything you think is golden. You are able to think all sorts of things that are untrue, including holding conflicting beliefs at once. When we act as if they are true, and they are hurtful to us, it drains our energy.

For example, if you made the routine that you do laundry on Monday because that was useful to you at some point, but you don’t have the energy to do laundry today and it happens to be a Monday, and you also still have clean clothes, you could beat yourself up emotionally about how you’re a failure and can’t get even the simplest housework done, so how can you manage the bigger things in life. You could do that, but that fight with yourself uses a lot of energy. 

If you instead unlearn the belief that you are a terrible person for not doing housework in a particular way, or at a particular time, you’ll have the freedom to make the choice of how you want to spend your energy, whether on doing laundry or not.

It’s not actually about getting yourself to do the laundry, or letting yourself off the hook. It’s about decoupling the idea of housework from being a good or worthy person. 

There are so many of these kinds of beliefs that we all catch like colds growing up, and those of us who are neurodivergent often catch more than our fair share of them. 

Finding and working through them, one by one, makes an enormous difference in energy, anxiety, stress, black-and-white thinking, motivation, ability to communicate with others, etc. and that spreads throughout every area of life.

I’ll be coming back to this concept over and over. I hope this helps as a short intro.

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Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an Autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other Autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, just about every -ology, and Star Trek!

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